A clathrin assembly protein (AP180) has been purified and characterized from coated vesicles of bovine brain. This protein has hitherto escaped detection because in SDS-gel electrophoresis it is obscured by the 180 kd heavy chain of clathrin. Despite the similarity in electrophoretic mobility, AP180 differs from clathrin in both its subunit and native mol. wt, as well as hydrodynamic properties, surface charge and tryptic peptide composition. It also appears immunologically distinct from clathrin, since neither a polyclonal antiserum nor a monoclonal antibody, that have been shown to be specific for AP180, cross-react with the heavy chain of clathrin. AP180 binds to clathrin triskelia and thereby promotes clathrin assembly into regular polyhedral structures of narrow size-distribution (60-90 nm), reminiscent of the surface coat of coated vesicles. In this respect AP180 bears a functional resemblance to the 100-110 kd clathrin assembly polypeptides that have been previously described.